Facebook privacy and why you should care about what you post online…even privately!

So I just did a Guess My Age test on this website and it got it perfectly right. However, giving the same answers when doing it through Tor (so it can’t see my Facebook account) it got it wrong, which to me is quite interesting and has led me to certain conclusions: it probably takes your data from Facebook without you knowing.

This can have very serious consequences, especially when I realise that my year of birth is hidden on Facebook. So it would appear that any website can access information about you that you have on Facebook, even if it is not public information.

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Steam Music Goes into Open Beta

Hardly makes news, but I thought I would mention it.

Yes, Steam have released an open beta for their in-app music player that can be accessed from the in-game overlay (the one you get when you press shift + tab).

IMHO this is pretty pointless for PC users who can easily have their standard media player – i.e. Spotify, iTunes etc. – running in the background and map some key bindings to it to control it without having to Alt+tab out of a game. If you don’t know how to do this by the way, check out Auto Hot Keys with a little patience you can map literally any command to a key binding. I will add my script for in another post. Continue reading

More Taxpayers Money Wasted on Spam Email

Four of the biggest ISPs will now be spamming their users who use their connection to torrent. BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky, using £3.5 million sanction under Gordon Brown’s parliamentary reign, will send out “copyright alerts” to subscribers identified as illegally downloading copyrighted content.

These copyright alerts are used for the purpose of:

  • Making account holders aware that unlawful content sharing may have happened using their internet account;
  • Educating accountholders on how they can prevent copyright infringementfrom happening again and
  • Providing consumers information about ways to access digital content legally.

and after multiple alerts, and depending on their ISP, subscribers may find one or more of the following actions taken against them in form of:

  • A temporary reduction in Internet speed;
  • A temporary downgrade in Internet service tier or
  • Redirection to a landing page for a set period of time, until a subscriber contacts the ISP or until the subscriber completes an online copyright education program.

The Pirate Party UK has issued the following two statements on the topic which I wholeheartedly agree with…

“It’s ridiculous to think that a spam programme will do anything to benefit artists. These emails will no doubt end up filed in the same place as appeals for bank account details from ex-dictators.

The real worry is that when this proves to be a complicated flop, this will be used as an excuse for more draconian Internet crackdowns. The copyright fundamentalists could not get the Digital Economy Act through by democratic means, so now the plan is to shove it through by the back door.

It’s amazing that £3.5 million of taxpayers money is to be used on what amounts to an advert for big music and film companies. At the same time the government has cut arts companies doing fantastic work in the community. If we really want to support creativity we should use this money to support the artists slashed by the coalition.”

– Jack Allnutt

 

“The Government has denied many people access to free culture by closing down local Libraries and Arts Centres. Instead we have to pay – as taxpayers – for our right to pay to access culture. Is that not a confusion of its role and function as a public service organisation? Lobbying for the so-called Creative Industry (which boils down to a handful of Big Business Corporations really and has nothing to do with the majority of Creators) seems to be a distortion of and a drastic departure from its real responsibilities.”

– Maria Aretoulaki

The Pirate Party are the only party with their heads on straight when it comes to digital rights and they, so far, have my vote in the UK general election 2015. Continue reading

League of Legends Cinematic: A New Dawn

Riot have released a cinematic featuring some of my most favourite, and most hated – damn you Nautilus – champions; including my current favourite, Ahri!

The animation is absolutely brilliant, looking almost realistic at some points; I even got goosebumps at one point! This video absolutely 100% made my day. On the downside, I don’t have my desktop here anymore as it has been sent back home to the UK awaiting my return in September.

I’ve watched it about 3 times now and I never watch videos more than once. Remember guys: Keep Calm and Hit Charm!

My only criticism, however, is that Ahri has 9 tails…she’s ‘The Nine Tailed Fox’ for christ’s sake!!!

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Response to: AdBlock Plus is paid ‘protection money’ to allow Google ads to pass filters

Yesterday I wrote that AdBlock Plus’ is paid money by large companies like Google  to allow their ads to pass filters. After posting this, I read more into it and realised that though what I said was not entirely untrue, it was grossly misleading. Unfortunately I have not been able to correct my mistakes until now and I have since received a comment on the original post from Jessica Ciesielski, a media and entertainment student interning at Eyeo, saying the following:

Hey Jake,
Thanks for writing about Adblock Plus, but your idea of the Acceptable Ads initiative is completely inaccurate. Websites can’t pay to get on the whitelist. To get on, they have to prove to us that their ads conform to our criteria. Then the biggest ones on the list do pay for the service and the value it provides them, true, but over 90 percent on the list pay nothing. And the criteria are the same for all.
Besides, for the end-user you can turn off the feature at all times — just go to your Options page. We think it’s a good compromise that will encourage better ads. If you don’t, just turn it off. And btw: not sure what you meant about net neutrality: that’s about keeping ISPs from turning the Internet into cable TV, it’s got nothing to do with advertising … and we want the net to stay neutral too!!!

So in a nutshell, I was misleading, but not entirely inaccurate. No, a company cannot simply pay to ‘whitelist’ their ad(s) by simply paying; the ad(s) they want to whitelist must conform to a set of criteria listed below and if they are a large company then they will additionally be required to pay. You can also turn off this feature in the AdBlock Plus settings.

Which ads are “acceptable”?

We currently have the following requirements:

  • Static advertisements only (no animations, sounds or similar)
  • Preferably text only, no attention-grabbing images
  • Ad placement:
    • Ads should never obscure page content (e.g. require users to click a button to close the ad before viewing the page).
    • For pages featuring a reading text ads should not be placed in the middle, where they interrupt the reading flow. However, they can be placed above the text content, below it or on the sides. The same applies to search results pages: paid search results cannot be mixed with organic results.
    • When ads are placed above the content of a main page, they should not require the user to scroll down. The available vertical space is likely to be at least 700 pixels. Advertising should not occupy more than one-third of that height. Paid search results on search pages are allowed to occupy more space, but they should never outnumber organic results.
    • When placed on the side ads should leave enough space for the main content. The available horizontal space can be expected to be at least 1000 pixels, and advertising should not occupy more than a third of that width.
  • Advertising should be clearly marked as such with the word “advertising” or its equivalent, and it should be distinguishable from page content, for instance via a border and/or different a background color.
  • Marking and placement requirements do not apply for hyperlinks with affiliate referrer IDs embedded in the content of the page. Additional criteria for hyperlinks with affiliate referrer IDs:
    • Redirects originating from the hyperlink should not present any other webpage than the destination page.
    • In texts, not more than 2 percent of the words can be hyperlinked for monetization purposes.
    • Hyperlinks should not be formatted or behave differently than other links.
    • Hyperlinks should not be misleading, in either content or placement.

These criteria are not necessarily final; we are always working at improving them. In particular, we want to require that every user’s privacy is respected (e.g. mandatory Do Not Track support). However, we are not yet in a position to enforce that requirement.

[Source]

However, to say that this has nothing to do with net neutrality would depend on how the 10% that are expected to pay for whitelisting are handled. If one of these companies refused to pay, would they be removed from the whitelist? If so, then this does pokes the net neutrality bear in my opinion. Here’s an example.

Lets say you have two big names, Company X and Company Y, they both produce non-intrusive ads and they both fall into your 10% that must pay to be on the whitelist. Company X agrees to pay to have their ads pass your filters but Company Y does not (for whatever reason).
You are now in a situation where you are offering a tiered delivery system that is based upon payments which is exactly what Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) in the USA are trying to do.

Technically speaking net neutrality is the principle that

“Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user”

But this principle should also apply to anybody who is involved in deciding what end-users can or cannot see.

I concede that this isn’t the biggest issue when it comes to net neutrality, as what is happening with ISP’s is much graver, but it certainly affects the issue and in my own honest opinion is immoral.


Jessica, if you are reading this response, I hugely appreciate your contribution and I honestly wish others would follow suit. Thank you.

AdBlock Plus is paid ‘protection money’ to allow Google ads to pass filters

It has came to light that Eyeo, the people that own AdBlock Plus, are paid money by large firms like Google to allow their ads to pass through filters. If you don’t understand why that is extremely wrong, let me explain.

Many people rely on advertising as their sole source of income. These people include YouTubers, streamers, broadcasters, bloggers and more. When you use AdBlock Plus on these kind of sites, you are receiving the content and the creator gets nothing for it, not a cent. Continue reading